Oklahoma Workers Compensation Claim Against Dillard’s Goes To CommissionOctober 2, 2015
A complaint against the retail giant Dillard’s will go to the commission that oversees Oklahoma workers compensation claims, despite the fact that the company does not participate in the state’s workers compensation insurance program. A U.S. District Court judge in Oklahoma City ruled that the Oklahoma Worker’s Compensation Commission should hear the complaint of a Dillard’s employee who had her Oklahoma workers compensation claim denied due to a pre-existing condition
Details of the Oklahoma Workers Compensation Claim
Jonnie Yvonne Vasquez suffered a neck injury in September 2014 while working in a Dillard’s store in Shawnee. The injury caused her severe pain in her left shoulder and she was taken by ambulance to a local hospital. Doctors diagnosed the neck injury as the deterioration of the discs in the neck and upper spinal column. The pre-existing condition, known and cervical spondylosis, led Dillard’s private insurers to deny Ms. Vasquez’s Oklahoma workers compensation claim twice.
Private Insurers Make Oklahoma Workers Compensation Claim Process Difficult
In February 2014, the Oklahoma Employee Injury Benefit Act went into effect. The law allows companies to opt out of the state’s Oklahoma workers compensation claim process. Instead, employers must provide insurance for injured workers through private insurance carriers. Dillard’s enacted a private Oklahoma workers compensation claim program in September 2014, shortly before Ms. Vasquez’s injury. The company used her pre-existing condition as part of the basis for denying her claim.
Oklahoma Workers Compensation Claim Appeal Raises Questions
The court’s decision to allow the state commission to hear the Oklahoma workers compensation claim appeal has raised questions about the purpose of the opt-out clause. Ms. Vasquez and her attorneys claimed that, although Dillard’s supplied injured workers insurance through a private provider, her Oklahoma workers compensation claim still fell under the state’s workers compensation laws. Attorneys for Dillard’s argued that the state commission did not have jurisdiction over the decisions of its private insurer.
Commission to Hear Oklahoma Workers Compensation Claim
The district court ruling cited the state law that allows workers who have had their Oklahoma workers compensation claim denied to have their appeal heard by the commission. The court also found that employers who choose to opt out of the state-run Oklahoma workers compensation claim process must still comply with state workers comp law. The ruling stated that, “the employer might well be a qualified employer, (but) the action nonetheless arose under the workers’ compensation laws of Oklahoma.”
Source: Business Insurance
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